Note to Lindsey Vonn: Sulking isn't cool
Monday, March 21, 2011; 4:03 PM
PARIS -- Note to Lindsey Vonn: Sulking isn't cool.
Because of her incredible determination to win, the American is a great athlete, one of the best women skiers ever.
But Vonn's ultra-competitive streak did her a disservice this weekend. Vonn forgot the rule - which Rafael Nadal, in particular, adheres to so admirably - that the greatest champions accept defeats as graciously as their victories.
Admittedly, the nature of this loss must have been painful and frustrating for Vonn. Ski fans and the sport's marketers can lament how what was primed to be the climax to an enthralling season instead went 'pfffffft,' a dud.
Because of poor weather - which ski officials cannot be blamed for - and some questionable regulations, which they should perhaps now reconsider, skiing blew a great chance to showcase what a thrilling and attractive sport it is, blessed on the women's side with a rivalry as fascinating as Nadal's with Roger Federer in men's tennis.
Just three World Cup points - peanuts, really, for two brave women who each accumulated more than 1,700 of them during five hard months of racing - separated Vonn and Maria Riesch ahead of the final race, a giant slalom. Like extra time in a soccer final or a deciding fifth set on championship Sunday at Wimbledon, this would be one of those sporting moments to savor.
Or it would have been without fog thick enough for a horror movie and snow so soft that, with strawberry flavoring and a cone, you might have eaten it.
Convinced that sending the women down the steep slope would have been neither fair nor safe, organizers canceled and, because of their rules, did not reschedule. With her three-point lead, Riesch became World Cup champion. Vonn, the three-time ex-champion, cried foul, in a statement which she issued instead of actually talking to reporters.
"A system that allows a decision like this to be made off the snow needs to be looked at," she said. "The cancellation of this race doesn't just hurt me, it hurts the fans and the sport of ski racing as a whole."
"There are so many ways to look at this, there may never be a day where I don't look back and say 'what if.'"
But what if a skier had been seriously hurt by being made to race in unsafe conditions? That would not have been an attractive alternative and, had an accident sidelined a star like Vonn who brings in sponsors and fans, could also have been harmful for the sport.
Or what if Vonn or Riesch had missed a gate and been disqualified because they couldn't see through the fog that grew so thick that the 10,000 spectators at the bottom of the course couldn't even see the finish line? That would have seemed as farcical, random and unfair as Riesch securing the World Cup crown without even clipping on her skis.